Thursday, 14 May 2009

USBM & PlanB

Congrats PlanB. Joseph Stannard wrote one of the best features to appear in the magazine for some time, and that's not just because the subject matter is something I am so close to. It didn’t descend into the kind of cliché or rhetoric that cripples almost every piece written about the genre, it was very even- and steady-handed and really quite thorough. At the risk of sounding a bit supercilious, I would have published something on the genre this time last year, or even the year before, when all these bands featured were already releasing records and artists like Leviathan and Xasthur were still kicking it, but the country’s still buzzing with this, so now is just as good a time as any – there’s plenty more where they came from.

I had a few thoughts on it, and here they are:
It concentrated on the more cerebral figures of the moment - or I suppose in another respect the more ‘hipster-metal’ artists - which I guess could have been either to:
a) give a coherent, focussed, narrative to the piece, or
b) to make it appear that the kinds of BM being produced in the US are all these artly crafted, cross-genre worthy strains.
There was no mention of the more base, violent, unsubtle thrashier end - No Black Witchery, Baphomets Horns, Bone Awl, Black Horns (…loads of other’s not beginning with ‘B’!). Although they got a brief mention, even Dominic Fernow’s Ash Pool are pretty down there, but deliberately so. Not too big a problem, but for the uninitiated it would be worth mentioning that the moronic Satanic sludge is not only still alive and kicking, but also producing some killer chops – just check Bone Awl’s new 7” for proof.

I guess that the foil to the more progressive side of the piece was Averse Sefira. Despite their unorthodox Kaballistic angle they are a pretty orthodox sounding BM band, more indebted to and corralled by the Scandanavian form, with a rigid attitude at odds to the rest of the bands in the article.

It felt the article didn’t quite finish off what it started in considering the lefty/liberal conundrum of musicians and the army, but it’s a real toughie for sure – For me, I want to give Cobalt my money so they can quit the army (and in recognition of their music of course), but at the same time, I wonder whether I want to give anything to the kind of person who would be in the army – that’s a superficial reaction to the idea of ‘Army’, which doesn’t consider any of the number of reasons why someone might want to join, and that’s the question I felt could have been asked of Phil McSorely, as opposed to the more patriotic angle.

The one tangible thing holding the scene together is arguably Aquarius Records and Andee Connors. In making all these records available – even down to the 10 copy tapes – in one place alongside practically every other genre of music conceivable, by listing Neu! next to Necrosadistic Goat Torture, Wormsblood next to Wolfgang Voight, The Vaselines next to Varghkoghargasmal… etcetcetc…., he’s drawing the disparate sonic elements together and providing the overarching narrative/attitude/forum that gives the idea that all these sounds can and do tie up. He would never even acknowledge that as a viable hypothesis, but the evidence is there. This is why Wrath is wrong when he says his band is “not engaged in any USBM scene” Just because this US scene is more ethereal and doesn’t revolve around a record shop…oh no, wait…

Joseph pegs it when he says that “the moment record stores added a black metal rack…the music was changed forever”, but I would go one further and say that they remain the energising, sustaining force.

It was especially good seeing Umesh Amtey get some page space - Brown Jenkins released one of my top 3 albums of 2008 and has been deserving of attention as much as more prominent groups like Nadja for combining sonic elements and moving metal forwards through a refreshing mindset.

Also, finally, Joseph must know, if not through the grapevine then personally, that Brandon Stosuy is writing a book on USBM – I wonder if he just wanted to get a cheeky little pop at it first!
PlanB, you should have stuck yr neck out and put Cobalt on the cover. The UKBM scene is coming on strong, with a few veterans…any plans for a follow-up?!


UA said...

Thanks for the mention. I put up the full text of that Plan B interview here:

Meatbreak said...

Not at all! I was surprised at the way they introduced you, it seemed as though they'd never heard you before. That's all changed then. Was great to read your opinions in the national press.

UA said...

Well, yeah, it's kind of strange. Jenkins has been going for a while now but it's managed to stay outside the "mainstream" of the underground. People always say "where did this come from?" Ha!

Wait until the next album... ;)